Founded 1889 – Affiliated to Yorkshire Naturalists' Union

Harold Maud Hirst (1887-1956)

H M HirstHarold was born on the outskirts of Leeds in 1887 (Jubilee Year) and because of his initials his friends came to know him as His Majesty. His parents, who were farmers, moved to Cayton around 1900 and then later to Ganton, at which time, Harold was a pupil at the Municipal School and used to cycle in each day.

Following in his grandfather’s footsteps (a herbalist) he was apprenticed to Crosby’s Chemists. Duties would include selling petrol to motorists, developing masses of dry plate photographs, mixing thousands of gallons of cod liver oil and delivering flavouring down to the ice-cream manufacturers on the foreshore. After four years with Crosby’s he moved to Hull, serving opium to Lascars and glasses of laudanum to Indians.

Following this he was employed with a Bradford wine merchant, then Boots the Chemists at Doncaster and then, four years later, Boots Chemists in Leeds, “a posh shop where he had to wear a frock coat”.

During the 1914-18 war he joined the Police War Reserve and qualified as a Chemist in 1916, one year later, he returned to Scarborough as manager of Whitfield’s Chemist on the South Cliff. After Mr. Whitfield’s death in 1932 he left and started his own business in Newby, building a house and the adjoining Scalby and Newby Pharmacy.

His hobby was botany and he would help local apprentices by inviting them to his home to study botany eventually (in 1920) starting classes at the Evening Institute in botany which ran until 1932. These classes needed herbarium specimens so he started the Ashburn herb garden, which eventually became so famous he was sending specimens all over the world.

Harold joined the Scarborough Field Naturalists’ Society on February 11th 1921.

Scarborough Field Naturalists’ Society offices held

President 1929

Committee Member 1924

Other Society Memberships

Chairman of the Scarborough branch of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

Chairman of the Law Society of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

Member of the National Health Service Executive Committee for North Riding

Chairman of the Scarborough Allotment Holders Association

Secretary for the Chrysanthemum Show

Chairman of the Scarborough Townsmen’s Association Battle of Flowers Committee

Member of the management committee of Chelsea Physic Garden

In addition to the above he was a regular contributor to the Scarborough Evening News on the subject of gardening and also wrote a technical article each month in the trade magazine of the retail chemists.

Known as the ‘Doyen of Scarborough Chemists’


There is a pharmaceutical herbarium of his at Wood End Museum.